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Red Sky in the Morning - Sailors Take Warning
St. John Live Music Schedule for tonight, Monday, January 30
High Tide – Rascio on Steel Pan – 4:00 – 6:30 – 714-6169 Island Blues – Sol Driven Train – 7:00 – 776-6800 La Tapa – Samba Combo – 6:30 – 9:30 – 693-8141 Maho Bay – Open Mic with Bo & Lauren – 7:00 Ocean Grill – Chris Carsel – 6:30 – 9:00 – 693-3304
Some years ago I came across a piece of Lignum vitae wood. part of which formed a “Y” just the right size for a kid’s slingshot. I saved the wood, but never got around to making it a slingshot, I confess, I’m not that handy, but I’m not so bad at delegating. Anyway the king of Virgin Islands slingshot art happened to be in town and I seized the opportunity. I also dug out this article he had written about just that, making a slingshot, or as they are called here, a catapult:
The Catapult, by Curtney “The Ghost” Chinnery
Normally we children would not go into the woods without our choice of weapon – a catapult. The making of the catapult is simple. Taking a piece of stick that has the shape of a “Y”, we make a groove at the two ends. Then we take a thin strip of tire tube from either a bike or a car and tie both ends of the tube onto the ends, creating what we would call a catapult. Each kid has a catapult.
The tongue of a shoe would be used as a pouch.
All children back then awake at 5:00 in the morning. Most children would have a long distance to go. Some, like myself, would journey into the hill above Great Harbour. My daily routine was climb or walk up the hill, a trail as long as I can remember. Even today it being used. Taking my journey about three mornings each week just before sunrise. Before I leave the yard, I would go to my box outside the house, where I keeps my marbles, catapult, and other personal antics. Taking only the catapult, after drinking a cup of our local bush tea, into the hills to fetch the cows. This was not an easy task for an eight year old. In any case, on the way into the hill to input a little playtime, we would shoot lizards. By doing so, we would get better with our aim. The main purpose of our catapult was to hunt birds, mainly the Mountain Dove. The Mountain Dove normally sings in dry weather. The elders used to tell us that the song the Mountain Dove sings is, “Father God, please send rain.” We still have that saying here on Jost Van Dyke. As my morning journey carries me to the cow pasture, taking and filling my pockets with tiny rocks to be handy for reloading my catapult. Shooting lizards and constantly listening for either the song of the Mountain Dove or the sweet whistling sound of their wings as they sweep through the trees. The reason that the Mountain Dove was our favorite prey on the hills is because of the sweet taste when fried.
I have an uncanny way of being able to find the Ghost. Case in point the “Scotland Yard Incident.”
It all started one day in 2002 when I came home to find a rather unsettling message on my answering machine. It was from a Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin from Scotland Yard asking me to please give him a call. He left a phone number from the BVI.
I immediately ask myself what I possibly might have done to incur the interest of this venerable law enforcement agency.
I rack my brain. What could they want? What did I do? Should I call? I can’t think of anything and so I decide to call.
“Hello, Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin Scotland Yard, who’s calling?”
“Gerald Singer from St. John”
“Oh good, Mr. Singer. I’m glad you called. We’re coming to St. John in a few days and we’d like to talk to you.”
“What’s this about?” I ask.
“We’ll talk about it when we get there,” he answers, “we’ll call,” and he hangs up.
Mystery still not solved.
Three days later the phone rings.
“Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin, we’re at Cap’s Place in Cruz Bay. Can you come down and talk to us?”
So I go down to Cap’s along with my then girlfriend and there sitting at one of the tables are two casually dressed agents along with their wives.
I identify myself, join them and take a seat looking out at the street.
“So what’s the story?” I ask.
Well, the story goes like this:
The two agents are on Tortola investigating a murder, in which the local BVI police department are getting nowhere. The Scotland yard boys, however are pretty sharp and they have a good lead, a witness or a suspect who was in jail and there was this guy sharing a cell with him that they felt had some information. They didn’t want to approach the guy directly or ask too many questions locally, because they were afraid that the guy would be suspicious and hide or run. In their investigation they find that this fellow with the information has a friend on St. John that could act as an intermediary and that friend is me, and the individual they’re looking for is Curtney Chinnery, the Ghost.
“Would you talk to him,” they ask.
Before I can even answer the question I look out onto the street and who is walking by but none other than the Ghost himself.
“Excuse me a moment,” I say to the agents and walk out onto the street.
I walk over to Ghost and explain the situation and ask him if he wants to talk to the agents. He says, OK and we walk over to Cap’s.
The agents deputize the Ghost on the spot and the information that they gather from him proves to be helpful in the ultimate solving of the case.
Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen from Scotland yard, their wives (left), Habiba, the ex girlfriend (between the two agents) and the Ghost (front)
Island Sun August 2, 2002
“Man charged in Bally Murder Case”
On 30 July, Darren Hodge, age 25, a serving prisoner at Balsam Ghut was charged with the murder of Jason Bally. A police sources stated that this case has been unsolved since October 1999. Ag. Commissioner Barry Webb reviewed the case last year and recommended a renewed investigation.
His Excellency Governor Frank Savage agreed to two officers from New Scotland Yard being attached to the investigation team which has been led by Inspector Alexis Charles. The Scotland Yard officers are Detective Sergeant Michael Murfin and Detective Kenny Allen. Experienced RVIPF officers and Attorney General’s office have worked closely with the officers from London for the past six weeks to bring this investigation forward.
Bally, 25, was shot in the street outside the Domino Gas Station in Sea Cows Bay on 15 October 1999. A native of Trinidad, the victim had been employed at Foxy’s Bar on Jost Van Dyke.According to police, investigations revealed that Bally and a male companion were walking along the Sea Cows Bay Public Road in the vicinity of Domino Gas Station when a black male approached them from the gas station area. A loud blast was heard and Bally fell to the ground while his companion escaped unharmed and alerted residents of the area. On examining the gas station police found that an attempted burglary had taken place and recovered items used in that attempt.
While police have gathered enough evidence to bring a murder charge against Darren Hodge, the investigation is still ongoing. There were a number of suspects involved in the attempted break-in of the gas station and efforts continue to collect evidence to prosecute them for burglary and to determine what part, if any, they played in the murder.
The investigation team is still keen to hear from anybody with information about the case. In particular, assistance is sought regarding two gas tanks left at Domino Gas Station by the suspects. It has never been established where these came from, but it is suspected that they were stolen from someone on Tortola. Additionally, the weapon used in the murder is believed to have been a handgun that has not yet been recovered.
Police sources further noted that on 16 December 2001, Darren Hodge who was remanded to H.M. Prison for burglary escaped but later turned himself into police on 17 December. Hodge was due to be released on 19 August 2002, however due to the present matter he will have to reappear in the Magistrate’s Court on 23 October.
Anyone with information regarding this case is asked to contact the investigation team on a dedicated telephone number: 468-9136. All calls will be treated in the strictest confidence.
I though I might share some of the little things that made me smile this morning.
I noticed that my lime tree is in flower again. This is a local lime tree, not a grafted one. The limes have seeds and they turn yellow when ripe. They’re full of juice and are sweet in a limey sort of way. I planted this tree from a seed given to me by John Gibney, taken from a lime grown on my favorite lime tree. The tree flowers all over and almost all the flowers ripen turn into limes that fall to the ground when they get ripe. I would guess that each time it bears it gives at least 100 limes, probably more.
Now the lime tree is in flower once again and today as I walked by, I remembered something about the flowers. They’re special also. They have the most delicious aroma, like a beautiful perfume from an expensive perfume store.
Good T’ing! Made me smile.
I have a lot of aloes in the garden. I used to used them in shakes, but not so much recently. They’re good for sunburns or any kind of burn. Now they’re all in flower. The best thing about the aloe flower is that it attracts hummingbirds. My neighbors Adam and Jane have a hedge of aloes where I took this video on day when the aloes were in full bloom.
This is one of my favorite orchids. It’s not native to St. John. My guess is that it came fro El Yunque in Puerto Rico, but I’m not sure. It has been in bloom many times and each time it makes me smile.
I once read an article in the New York Times which suggested that the Virgin Islands was “a sunny place for shady people.” I happen to believe that the article was essentially correct, especially for the continentals that inhabit this tropical paradise and even more especially for those continentals living on the island of St. John during the decades of the 1970s and 80s.
I heard this story in upon returning to St. John after an extended hiatus. Neither the principals nor the story teller are presently available for comment or verification and I have no first hand knowledge as per the veracity of this story. Thus, no names. But I have to say that knowing some of the characters on John that have come and gone, it does rings true.
The story, which takes place on St. John in the 1980s goes like this:
One day a husband wife team came to St. John from America to promote a land development project. Their role was to bring together investors and developers, a service for which they expected a significant piece of the pie.
They were young, good looking and fast talking. Notwithstanding, after almost a year of concentrated effort it began to look extremely doubtful that their deal would ever off the ground.
Meanwhile the couple had purchased some land and had just started building. They got as far as the first cistern pour, when apparently the stress of building, the stress of their business failure and the stress that seems to be inherent in many St. john relationships began to effect their marriage, which soon came apart at the seems.
The man left the island and the woman stayed on hooking up with a guy who was a talented carpenter and builder. Together the two lovebirds worked diligently on the construction of the house, which she and her ex had begun.
When the house was just about finished, this relationship also went on the rocks, and the lady kicked the boyfriend out of the house. Having no more reason to be on St. John, her boyfriend returned to the states.
Shortly thereafter the end of the affair, the lady’s husband returned. They patched up their differences, got back together, sold the newly completed house, and left the island.
It was the summer of 1969 and I was still living on St. Thomas. At the time I was driving an old Willys Jeep. Although usually extremely dependable, one day the old jeep began to have some rather serious problems that needed the attention of a professional. I was then living on St. Thomas’ Northside and I had a neighbor, a big, bearded, white boy named Norman, who was an excellent mechanic and not too expensive. I called Norman and the jeep and I limped over to Norman’s house and deposited the jeep inside the detached garage where Norman did his automotive repair work. The garage lay at the end of a steep, crumbling, concrete driveway and I knew that it wouldn’t get back up that road until it’s problems were solved.
I secured Norman’s promise to start work right away and went about my business – on foot.
I don’t remember what the problem with the jeep was exactly, but it must have been serious enough, because when I returned the next day there were jeep parts spread all over the garage mixed in with Norman’s tools and, for lack of a better description, “stuff.” It was really quite an impressive mess.
“How’s it goin’, Norman?” I asked.
“Under control,” said Norman.
I had to hand it to Norman, and to all those whose mechanical intelligence so vastly surpasses my own, that he would actually, not only be able to put the jeep back together again, but also to render the old fellow St. Thomas road ready once again.
As I stood in the blazing sunshine outside the wooden garage marveling at the expertise of this mechanical wizard, I saw a black sedan turn off the main road onto the driveway making it’s way towards us. A middle aged black gentleman, who I recognized to be Al Wiltshire, a detective in the employ of the Virgin Islands police force, stepped out of the vehicle.
“Afternoon,” I said
“Afternoon,” he answered. “Norman, I have some bad news for you.”
Norman looked up from his work.
“What’s that Al?”
“I have a warrant for your arrest. Appears to be an old stateside beef. I gotta take you in.”
“No Al! Please, not now! ” I pleaded. “Can’t you just come back later. Let Norman finish up. Please!”
“Sorry, can’t do it. Let’s go Norman.
Norman and Al disappeared into the car leaving me staring at a thousand and one parts, bolts, screws, soda cans and tools and the stripped body of my old jeep.
“Don’t worry,” I heard Norman shout from the open car window. “It’s no big t’ing. Be right back.”
I did bump into Norman again, a little more than a year later, but by that time I had moved on to St. John. The jeep was history, but all else was just fine.